The Guilford County Health Department has joined a multistate investigation of the health risks now associated with e-cigarette use – better known as vaping. The department is helping support the collection of data pertaining to a rash of vaping-associated illnesses across the country and is also doing whatever it can to dissuade the practice.
On Thursday, Sept. 26, the national vaping story became a local one when Cone Health confirmed its first case of death caused by vaping.
Guilford County Health Director Merle Green said on Thursday that county health officials were doing what they could to discourage the practice and help the state and federal health agencies collect information. State health officials are now collecting vaping tools and substances used by sick patients in order to study potential causes of the disease.
“At this point, the collecting of items used during reported vaping by patients who have now become ill is being done by state health departments and the US Centers for Disease Control,” Green said.
Green provided the Rhino Times with the CDC guidelines for doctors, clinicians and health officials who first have direct contact with patients who vape and are suspected to have become ill because of doing so.
“Report cases of severe pulmonary disease of unclear etiology and a history of e-cigarette product use within the past 90 days to your state or local health department,” those guidelines state. “Reporting of cases may help CDC and state health departments determine the cause or causes of these pulmonary illnesses.”
Doctors whose patients report e-cigarette product use within the last 90 days and show signs of the related illness are being asked to obtain a detailed history of the patient’s vaping practices, including information about the substance or substances used. For instance, was it nicotine, marijuana, hash oil, flavors or something else? The medical professionals are also supposed to ask the patient about the brands used, where the products were purchased and whether or not they re-used old cartridges – along with a long list of other questions.
As of September 11, there were about 400 cases of lung illness associated with the use of e-cigarette products reported to the CDC across 36 states and one US territory. That number has continued to grow in the last two weeks and about a dozen deaths nationally are now suspected from the disease.
The death at Cone Health has focused local officials’ attention on the matter.
Some symptoms for those who vape to look out for are a shortness of breath or chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and weight loss.
The Guilford County Health Department is also stressing the following advice:
- Youth and young adults shouldn’t use e-cigarette products.
- Women who are pregnant shouldn’t use e-cigarette products.
- Adults who currently don’t use tobacco products shouldn’t start using e-cigarette products.
- If someone does use e-cigarette products; they should never buy these products off the street – for example, e-cigarettes with THC or other cannabinoids.
- Vapers should never modify e-cigarette products or add any substances that aren’t intended for use by the manufacturer.
Smokers and vapers who are attempting to quit can call the North Carolina Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or consult the website at https://www.quitlinenc.com/.